There are two schools of thought about the far-right.
The first argues that traditional center-right parties have an obligation to tolerate and assimilate far-right elements to prevent the creation of new groups and parties seeking to fill the void on the extreme right-wing fringe.
The second counters that if these elements are allowed to poison the center-right parties, they grow more influential, start to dominate the agenda and ultimately push the rest of the far-right to adopt even more extreme positions. In the meantime, racist, xenophobic, homophobic and misogynistic rhetoric becomes permissible by the adoption of such opinions by the mainstream right as it tries to contain the migration of voters further to the extremes.
This, in turn, shifts political dialogue solidly to the right of the political spectrum and instead of being conducted between the two historic camps – the center-left and the center-right – it ends up being carried out by a now-ultraconservative right and the most reviled version of the extreme right, which moves on the very fringes of or even outside the constitutional arc.
New Democracy has not solved this dilemma, and this is more than apparent in its ambivalence toward the Konstantinos Bogdanos phenomenon. Its hesitancy is evident even now, after the MP was ousted from the party: “There are all sorts of transferences between different and diverse political formations; we are seeing alliances between unexpected groups. It is evident that anything is possible down the line in such a context,” Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis cryptically responded to a question as to whether the ousted MP would be allowed to return to New Democracy. In short, the discussion about his comeback started before the dust had even settled after his departure.
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias may have drawn a clear dividing line between the party and the far-right, but the same cannot be said of the prime minister. In spite of his many reservations, he eventually added Bogdanos to the ND ballot in the 2019 elections; he has failed to reprimand him on the numerous occasions that he’s exposed the party since; and he made three former officials of the ultranationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) ministers, prompting a strong reaction from the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. And what did he accomplish? He angered his centrist audience with the patience he showed for two years and now appears terrified by the prospect of a faction springing up to his right that will propagate all the usual nationalist, irredentist and xenophobic cliches.
But like mini-Trumps, the aspiring leaders of the alt-right exist only as social media avatars and can be erased by the shortest of blackouts. The good news for the prime minister is that all the people threatening him from the right have such oversized egos they barely fit in the same party.